on Sep 11, 2006
They let you make animated characters using an avatar builder and add it to your website without asking for any money. Instead, certain items of clothing and accesories cost a few bucks. I’m not sure that can bring in enough to pay for the coders, artists, and bandwidth required to keep this going, but I think their approach makes a lot more sense than Site Pal. Site Pal wants money up front before you can put the guy on your site. Meez lets you get attached to your little animated persona and then tries to entice you into buying upgrades. I have an example of one of these characters at the end of this post. Kind of amusing.
The major downside I see is their delivery method: That animated guy below is a 1.1 megabyte animated GIF. That sucks. GIF files are a terrible way to deliver large animations like this. It’s bulky and doesn’t scale well at all. Some sort of Flash player thing would make a lot more sense.
Meez has a website clearly aimed at the user, while Site Pal has a lot of stuff on their site about “increasing sales” and “improving user experience”. If you just read their page, you would assume they were offering a product aimed at corporate websites. A quick look at the product itself, though, and it looks more like a personal website toy. (Their website also has the flavor of someone courting investment money and trying to convince potential investors, “No, really! We’re a serious company! We do sales and e-Business and User Experience and all kinds of grown-up stuff!”) I think the marketing-focused salesmanship on their site, coupled with the pay-up-front approach, is going to drive away a lot of casual and curious customers. On the upside, they aren’t bleeding bandwidth costs to non-paying customers like YouTube or Meez. On the other hand, I stongly suspect that the Site Pal voice technology (which is their really clever feature) is licensed from a third party, so if by some miracle that became their selling point then other companies (like Meez) could just license it as well.
These “website gadgets” are interesting to me. During the dot-com craze, everyone thought this stuff was the future. Then everyone thought it was a pipe dream and ran off. Now people are starting to look in this direction again. Bandwidth is cheaper, blogs are a much larger part of the ‘net, a few new ideas have cropped up, and investors are a little wiser and more cautious. I think it’s a good sign that things like this are showing up, and also a good sign that nobody is offering them a billion bucks of investment for an idea and some prototype code. These sites might actually exhibit a normal business lifecycle: Make a prototype, get enough cash to get off the ground, and then either fly or crash.
Read on to see that 1.1MB animated Meez, which I’ve hidden below the fold as an act of mercy.
1.1 Megabytes for this? It’s cute and all, but someone needs to fix that.